We love e-books and the easy way one can publish new work on a variety of reader devices. We also appreciate and respect when hardcover books are donated to a library. There is history in the print; there is provenance in the handing down; there is the mouldering stink of ink and finger grease on the pages.
We are uncertain, however, if a gift of 200,000 electronic books should carry the same glimmer and glitter of a similar hardcover donation:
Cambridge University Library is now home to one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese monographs – following the gift of 200,000 electronic books by the country’s Premier.
Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, visited the University recently as part of the University’s 800th Anniversary celebrations.
The gift is one of the largest single donations received in the University Library’s 650-year history and almost doubles the number of electronic books at its disposal.
Is there antiquity in a copiable e-book; can bites and byes be handed down with any authority; has the human aesthetic been deodorized from the virtual page?
While the spirit of the donation is confounding and intense, we to not believe e-books should be the measure of the man in donation or the ethereal university in its appreciative sycophancy.